Prince William continues Middle East tour

MICHEL GANGNE

The aide added "the non-political nature of His Royal Highness's role - in common with all royal visits overseas - allows the spotlight to be brought to bear on the people of the region: their cultures, their young people, their aspirations, and their experiences".

On Sunday, he was welcomed in Jordan by 23-year-old Crown Prince Hussein, a member of the Hashemite dynasty Britain helped install in then-Transjordan nearly a century ago. William is president of Britain's Football Association and an avid supporter of the Aston Villa football club.

Kensington Palace tweeted in Arabic that William's visit to Jordan "is based on the strong links between our two countries and the royal families, who have visited each other many times over the years".

The duke even pressed a button to start a laser cutter which produced the design, but before it sprang into action he spotted the Villa crest on the machine and said: "That's familiar".

"The way in which you opened your doors to hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, not to mention your longstanding commitments to Palestinian refugees, is remarkable", he said.

Prince William will also deliver a speech at a Queen's birthday party at the British ambassador's residence.

"My wife Catherine is so sorry she can not be here with me so soon after the birth of our son", he said.

He noted that she had spent nearly three years as a child in Jordan, when her father worked in Amman for British Airways.

William was greeted by an honour guard after his RAF Voyager landed at Marka Military Airport, a small airport on the outskirts of the capital, Amman.

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Reflecting the royal visit's focus on young people, William will also meet with young Syrian refugees and Jordanian students while in Jordan and play soccer with children in Jaffa, Tel Aviv.

"This is the first visit by a member of the British royal family to Israel".

He is set to meet with Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin before traveling to Ramallah for a meeting with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

The visit will have been carefully choreographed to allow the prince to spend equal time with both Israelis and Palestinians, but it won't stop every part of his five-day trip from being heavily scrutinised.

Last week, an Israeli Cabinet minister complained about the royal itinerary's reference to Jerusalem as part of the "Occupied Palestinian Territories", calling it a distortion of reality.

Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move not internationally recognised.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said she welcomed William's visit to the West Bank as a chance to see Palestinian reality under Israeli occupation first hand.

According to Kensington Palace, during his five-day visit, Prince William "is looking forward to building a real and enduring relationship with the people of the region".

William is visiting a region where three decades of British rule between the two world wars helped establish some of the fault lines of today's Israeli- Palestinian conflict. The princess has been recognized by Yad Vashem as "Righteous Among the Nations" for hiding a Jewish woman and her two children in Athens during World War II.

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